Twitter will offer option to follow interests rather than people

Dating service
Twitter
Twitter hopes the 'Follow Topics' feature will open up conversations among different users on the social network

Twitter users will be able to follow interests, in addition to people, by the end of the year, the company has revealed. 

It is already testing the feature and plans to focus on sports topics first, with interests ranging from skincare to television series to follow. Users will begin to see a “follow topics” prompt and any topics they follow will be visible on their profile. 

The tweets will be collated using machine learning tools which will pick up and pack tweets based on what is included in its text, the hashtag, who has written it and who is retweeting and liking it. 

It is part of the company’s wider commitment to improve conversation and break users out of their so-called social media “filter bubble” in which users are never exposed to conversations or people outside their inner circle or people who think similarly about things. 

The underlying technology that provides artificial intelligence linking topics to people is the work of Briton Rob Bishop, a product manager who joined Twitter after selling the artificial intelligence he co-founded, Magic Pony, to Twitter in 2016 for a reported $150m (£120m).

He said: ‘We want to facilitate being able to see the topics people follow to find various commonalities.”

He said that Twitter will only allow topics that adhere to its policy and that it was working out how to keep the conversations “healthy”. They chose algorithms over human curation because it needed to be instantaneous. 

Twitter has tried to get users to have more positive conversations with people they do not follow through Twitter Moments, which highlight a live event, and Lists, which allow users to create a mini-feed of people who share something in common.

Twitter will mute topics if a person is concerned they might spoil a plotline or reveal the results of a match that a user has not been able to watch yet. 

The company made the announcements at its headquarters in San Francisco, along with a raft of additions including a search function in its direct message inbox, the ability to edit the order of photos you have posted after publishing. It revealed features it was testing including subscribing to a conversation, so you can receive push notifications if someone replies on a thread. 

Head of product Kayvon Beykpour teased that the much anticipated edit button, that would allow someone to correct a mistake after tweeting, may come in the future but that it was “not a priority”. He hinted at plenty of changes to come, now that the company is “in a much more stable place”. It returned to a growth in users earlier this year after a dip caused by its bot and fake accounts ban. Mr Beykpour said this gave Twitter the “luxury and space” to make “substantial changes”.

What do you think about Twitter's new 'Follow Topics' feature? Share your view in the comments section below.